'I'm a black woman and changed my name on my CV to a white man’s. Here's what happened'

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images
  • The job market for aspiring professionals is daunting, and the unemployment rate in South Africa is high.
  • There's always been this narrative: Go to university, beat the odds, earn a degree -that will be your ticket to economic independence, mobility, and prosperity.
  • However, even with affirmative action, black women, still struggle to get into the job market.
  • Lusanda* tells Wandi Jama how she found her way into the job market.

After many attempts, over seven months, to set her foot in the door, Capetonian Lusanda, 35,* decided to change her name on her CV to a white male's. This is what happened, as told to Wandi Jama:

You know how as the very ignorant 19-year-old, fresh out of high school and ready to take on the world, you never really think about how earning a degree cum laude wouldn't really open as many doors as you thought it would. That was the harsh reality I had to face despite having a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Management.

I'm a consultant in project management, and I'd like to think I'm really good at my job, but my ego and confidence might have taken a hit after getting retrenched a few years ago.

The retrenchment really affected how I view myself and the workforce. Then Covid-19 happened, and applying for jobs during a pandemic became even more strenuous and challenging.

READ MORE | Black women in South African academia struggle to get ahead: what needs to change

Over seven months, I applied so many times, took multiple tests, and got offered packages that were far below what my qualifications and experience should fetch.

Frankly speaking, they were insulting. They felt like a slap in the face and so belittling. I knew our economy was in trouble, but I also felt that most hiring managers wouldn't dare offer a white male what they were offering me. So, I came up this crazy idea to change my name to Anthony* (surname withheld) on my CV and see how many responses I'd receive.

From the moment I shared my new CV profile, I received interest from some highly sought-after companies. I got emails for interviews within a short period of time.

When it came to the virtual interviews, the shock in the voices of the hiring managers was quite funny. They weren't expecting to hear from a black woman who is extremely confident and is skilled and qualified. Some companies wouldn't ask about the contradictory name, while others would. I would tell them the truth, and some told me that what I'm doing is unethical.

READ MORE | How to spot a toxic workplace during the interview process

For one specific company, it was different - I received an interview invite and an assessment before the interview. I aced the assessment and then was invited to a virtual interview.

On the day of the interview, I decided to disclose my full identity an hour before the interview. I knew I wanted this job and didn't want to hinder my chances of getting it. I didn't know what to expect - would they continue with the process, or would they ghost me?

To my surprise, we continued with the interview, and I was transparent with them. I told them I'd been having a hard time getting a job as a black woman, and I resorted to this as an experiment. The experiment proved to be correct - I would get more traction from my application as a white male.

Surprisingly, the hiring managers were moved, maybe because I spoke from the heart and explained the difficulties I endured as a black woman in corporate. To summarise, I got the job, and I'm soaring and excelling in my well-deserved role. It had taken about three months from the time I changed my name. It's sad that I had to go through these lengths for my worth to be seen and recognised.

I just hope that one day we'll get to a point where women like me don't need to go through this for a job they deserve and are highly skilled for.

What do you think about what Lusanda did? Tell us here.

* Name has been changed to protect her identity

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